Many of today’s Arab Christians are wondering what place they will have in the rapidly changing societies of their nations. SAT-7 programmes are giving Arab Christian leaders a platform to speak to them and are encouraging them to boldly play a positive role in their communities.
Last Saturday, Host Bassem Maher introduced an episode of Bridges by describing the heritage of Arab Christians. He reminded viewers of the role of Christians in Arab society as it has extended for millennia. Christianity is part and parcel to the land itself. The history of the Arab World cannot be fully told without telling the story of Christ and His modern-day followers.
The sacred biblical history of the Middle East and North Africa is tied to the beliefs and practices of today’s Christians, yet a horrific onslaught of violence is causing many to leave for countries with greater security.
Christianity is part and parcel to the land itself.
Just this week, ISIS captured the town of Qaraqosh in Iraq, home to many religious minorities. Thousands of Christian families are fleeing and other minorities are reporting massacres. (Click here to read what SAT-7 CEO Dr. Ascott had to say about this week’s violence in Iraq.) Many are wondering, does the rest of the world care? And will we ever be able to return?
Violence in Libya
Bassem noted violence and instability flaring up across the region, most recently the fighting of rival factions in Libya that killed hundreds. Bassem said, “Everything that happens in Libya has a consequence or an effect on Egypt…These regions in southern Libya and surrounding countries are tactically significant because jihadist groups can use these locations to launch attacks against Egypt.” As he proceeded to update viewers on events in Iraq and Egypt, it was clear that the stability of one nation (or lack thereof) is inextricably linked to the stability and prosperity of its neighboring nations.
The French government has declared its preparedness to ease the immigration of Iraqi Christian refugees to France. The adjacent picture shows a welcoming ceremony for Iraqi refugees arriving in France. An Iraqi child holds a sign that says “I’m Iraqi. I’m a Christian.” The same identity that ushers in a warm welcome for her in France could have led to her death at the hands of extremists in her hometown in Iraq.
The prospect of safer surroundings and more reliable public services brings some relief to the war-weary families, but the council of Iraqi churches has not greeted this mass exodus of Christians from the region with the same enthusiasm. They see the move as reinforcing the political objectives of ISIS to empty the region of Christians. Once Christians leave, they could lose the property rights to their homes.
“A new democratic Egypt”
In a special report, the focus of the episode shifted to events in Egypt. The report featured the graduation ceremony for the Episcopal Divinity School in Egypt. Bishop Monir Hanna said of the ceremony, “Their graduation comes at a very important time. Right now, Egypt has new hope in the face of a new country… [The graduates] are extending their hands to all Egyptians to build a new, democratic Egypt – not just from a political and economic standpoint, but from a spiritual standpoint.”
Bridges noted repeatedly that Christians are the not the only group affected by instability and changing politics. In an interview with Rev. Dr. Joseph Escatolin at the graduation, he said, “Christian theology, with its deep roots, is open to others…In this day and age, it’s not possible for a religion to be compartmentalized. For this reason, a lot of Christian theologians and teachers have begun to spread the seeds for religious dialogue with all sects throughout the world.”
At a time when many Arab Christians are beset with worry, SAT-7 programmes like Bridges help them to picture a positive role in a changing society. SAT-7 brings hope by broadcasting the exhortations of spiritual leaders and keeping the focus on God’s will.
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